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Mark Wagner’s ‘Recycled’ Dollar Bill Collages Poke Fun at Money

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Mark Wagner’s ‘Recycled’ Dollar Bill Collages Poke Fun at Money

At a time when most Americans are counting their pennies and saving their dollars, artist Mark Wagner is cutting up cash and using it as art supplies. Wagner’s latest series of works focus on the iconic one dollar bill – he uses its bevy of symbols and illustrations to create sprawling currency collages. Wagner transforms pieces of dollars into portraits, animals and plants that comment on money and liberty.

Fascinated by the durable linen stock and deep ink printing of paper currency, Wagner transforms powerful symbol into mosaics, decorative patterns, and tableaux.  By using the old-fashioned practice of collage (the craft of reusing printed elements), Wagner creates pieces that appear to be vintage artworks at first glance.

The dollar bill is rife with symbolism – the Masonic eye, pyramids, fire, and flowers. Wagner plays up these symbols, by casting them against the star of the dollar bill – founding father George Washington. Many pieces poke fun at money – a triptych shows a “money tree,” first rich with dollar leaves, then slowly barren and fruitless. Hundreds of tiny leaf details are arranged together to spell out “Petty Cash” in decorative cursive, while seals from the Department of the Treasury bloom like flowers on a vine. He even transforms the rounded details and Washington heads into a graceful peacock set against a brick pattern made up of the rectangular dollar remnants.

But his most playful pieces are the ones in which he casts president George Washington in an array of madcap situations. George sails on a sea of bills with two clones and tames a lion with his head in its mouth. The most impressive piece is a massive and meticulously detailed collage of the Statue of Liberty with ghosts and Georges running amok, causing chaos and havoc.

Wagner’s work strikes a chord in our troubled economy, which has forced us to consider our own relationship with money and the concepts of freedom and liberty.

Wagner’s website describes the project as such:

The one dollar bill is the most ubiquitous piece of paper in America. Collage asks the question: what might be done to make it something else? It is a ripe material: intaglio printed on sturdy linen stock, covered in decorative filigree, and steeped in symbolism and concept. Blade and glue transform it-reproducing the effects of tapestries, paints, engravings, mosaics, and computers—striving for something bizarre, beautiful, or unbelievable… l’étranger dans le familier.

Wagner’s upcoming art exhibition, Money, Power, Sex & Mark Wagner, will premiere at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York City next month. The showcase is scheduled to run from Sept. 6 to Oct. 5.

Watch the video:

(11 commentaires)

  1. I am quite open minded about a lot of different topics. However, I am sometimes put off by some things done in the name of « art ». Destroying currency is a federal crime as far as I know, so I would hope that these are facsimiles and not the actual currency. I worked extremely hard for my income over the years and even defacing a dollar still causes me to wonder, how much does the artist make that affords him to do this?

    Aimé par 1 personne

    1. Of course, these are real dollars. There would be no interest.

      In France it is not reprehensible.
      I am not aware of your current laws.

      By cons I can assure you that life is very hard for all French since the introduction of the Euro.

      My task is to present you the work of the artists whoever they are, I am not responsible for the effect it has on you, and I do not speak on their behalf.

      The money of this talented artist belongs to him, it is not yours.
      After all, if he wants to use it that way it looks him.

      Then, there are not more things done more « in the name of art » than in other disciplines …

      There are only greedy men, who have more means than others, to create very questionable things and name them: works of art.
      And always other people to follow them, to support them and to profit from them.
      In my opinion, this is not the case for this artist.

      About his money;
      You make an identification with his story by mixing yours with it, because it attacks a taboo.
      I also believe that you are mistaken for combat.

      Simply, he denounces the concept of money in itself and demystifies its value.
      Then he transforms it and puts it back on the market.
      I find his work daring.

      He has written a book on the subject.

      In any case, this concept goes beyond the history of money, it is pure philosophy.

      He’s really not the most provocative artist of his decade.

      Nevertheless these illustrations are all the same, superbly great.

      You seemed to me sensitive and touching.

      I deplore the fact that you have not been unhappily aware of it, and that you can not detach yourself from judgment to appreciate things as they are; because there is interference with your past that prevents you from doing so.

      All interpretation is necessarily subjective, that is to say specific to the person who emits it, without being able to claim to impose it on others.

      Aimé par 3 personnes

    2. i am glad that we can have dialogue about art and life, human experiences and differing opinions. It is refreshing to be candid and to learn from others. In my country, we have become so cautious about expression, that the few who loudly proclaim in the extreme appear to speak for all. As for art it is a medium to evoke passions. And dialogue. Regardless, I love your platform to share these with the world.

      Aimé par 1 personne

Artists deserve respect even if you do not like their work; abstain from any negative prejudices! The commentary is a understanding analysis. Thank you

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